As I was preparing to write this blog post, I received an email from my seminary, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, which is just north of Chicago. The email contained an Advent devotion from our President, Dr. Lallene J. Rector. Her words are inspirational, and so I wanted to share them with you:
During this last week of Advent as we head toward Christmas Day and the season of Epiphany beyond it, I am reflecting once again upon the miracle of God coming to us in human form as one of us. I am always reminded of the great hope that is embodied in the birth of this particular child. A little boy “of color,” member of an oppressed and persecuted group of people who suffered a history of enslavement, and who found themselves once again the victims of an empire in control of their lives. Our Jesus, a boy who was destined to fight, in love, for justice and for the wellbeing of the downtrodden, even as it would eventually cost him his life. Ours is a great God who gives to us a savior and the promise of the ever-present, sustaining Holy Spirit.
I am acutely aware of all that mitigates against believing in this hope, for as we have noted before, the world is as desperate as it has ever been for redemption and for new, abundant life. People continue to struggle in the midst of war, starvation, intentional bombing of health care facilities and civilians, deadly discriminations, deportations, mass rejections of the stranger, and always, the accompanying weeping and wailing. There seems to be no end to the cruelty we can render upon one another.
And yet, in spite of all these things, we are called to believe anyway. This is the “folly” of the cross and of our faith. It is the logic that runs counter to the ways of the world and counter to our own human nature. And, it is the source of strength that enables us to keep on hoping and to keep on believing that our God will indeed make a way where there is no way. I cannot explain how we have managed to retain enough hope over 2000 years to continue praising, arguing, lamenting, loving, and partnering with our God, not only for our own survival, but also for the love of neighbor. At the end of the day, I must simply give thanks for the opportunity to serve and to remember that finally, there is no better way to show our love for God than to invest all our hearts, and souls, and minds, and strength in that love and in its manifestations.
The words of a familiar hymn came to me early this morning – remembered incorrectly, but nonetheless “accurately” for the place in which we find ourselves. In 1862, William Ralph Featherstone wrote, “Lord Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine.” He was only 16 at the time these verses of devotion were penned. I had recalled the verse ending each stanza as, “If ever I/we needed Thee, Lord Jesus ‘tis now.” My incorrect recollection only belies the feeling that so many of us share. We do need to walk with our savior and to make his ways our own ways, hoping and believing anyway.
The lectionary texts for Christmas Day remind us that, “The grace of God has appeared bringing salvation to all people” (Titus 2:11); that “The people in darkness have seen a great light” (Isaiah 9:2); that, “He is coming to establish justice on earth” (Psalm 96: 13); and that, “Our savior is born today” (Luke 2:11).
During this season of arrival and hope, of new beginnings, of celebration, of the appearance of God, and of new realizations, let us give ourselves, anew, over to the love of God and neighbor. Let us trust that in the end, all things will be redeemed and that our service to God will not have been in vain, but will have been faithful and worthy.
May you be blessed during these days, surrounded by love and immersed in a deep sense of the presence of God that renews your hope for the journey ahead.
Dr. Lallene J. Rector
Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary
I hope to see you on Saturday:
6pm – Traditional Candlelight (Sanctuary)
8pm – Contemporary Candlelight (Aldersgate)
10pm – Traditional Candlelight (Sanctuary)